Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain. It is also called advanced breast cancer, or Stage IV breast cancer.
Between 6 and 10 percent of all new breast cancer diagnoses are MBC. About 250,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed and over 40,000 Americans die each year from breast cancer.
Treatments for MBC are getting better and better, with survivors living 10 or even 15 years; however, there is still no cure. A societal awareness survey conducted by Kelton Global revealed that 61 percent of Americans knew little or nothing about MBC and 72 percent thought advanced breast cancer can be cured.
That’s why I am thankful to Gov. Rick Scott for issuing a proclamation naming February as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Along with Gov. Scott, two organizations have become very passionate about this: Metavivors and the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network. Anyone who has MBC is encouraged to reach out to them for assistance. They can provide information regarding support, financial assistance, clinical trials, treatments and coping mechanisms to help those living with the disease, and can help caregivers, family and friends get through a difficult time.
Finding breast cancer before it reaches Stage IV enables us to reduce the number of lives lost. That’s why I enthusiastically support the Mary Brogan Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. This program provides breast cancer screening mammography, as well as diagnostic mammography, for medically underserved women between the ages of 50 and 64 who have income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
It is essential that qualified women in this age group are diagnosed through this program – if the breast cancer is discovered outside this program, the woman is ineligible for assistance through the state. We lose too many women because they are sent to the wrong place for diagnosis.
This year, the American Cancer Society, joined by other breast cancer organizations, is asking lawmakers to provide $2.6 million in funding for this critical program to start matching the federal funds provided – which are only half of what the U.S. Centers of Disease Control provides to each state. Most states match dollar-for-dollar for this important program, but Florida does not.
We have been working for several years to get matching funding, and the House and Senate have provided funding to enable us to start toward matching the CDC funding. The program provides more than 15,000 screenings each year for women who otherwise would not be screened. We sincerely hope this year will not see a change simply because so many legislators are new.
While I love seeing pink everywhere in October, also remember that breast cancer and MBC happen all year long. I urge our lawmakers to support the work of organizations that truly help move the needle, providing necessary and important screening services and raising awareness.
Jeri Francoeur was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to one of the Medical Quality Assurance Boards for the state of Florida. Both Govs. Crist and Scott reappointed her.